What if God gave you the opportunity to speak to a crowd of people, and you had their undivided attention for 25 minutes. What would you tell them? Why?
I ask this because I am something of an active dreamer, and my present hope and dream is that in the future I will be asked to speak to congregations and youth groups about the mercies of God and his bringing us through the wasteland of sin (as I address in Stronghold). For good or ill, I spend some time investing in this dreams coming to fruition (hence my constant writing while looking for a 9-5 gig); and as such, I have begun to contemplate specific ways I would present this message.
Where and when do I begin?
How deep do I get?
What must be said?
What shouldn't be said?
I wrote my testimony over the last week, and I engaged these questions among others in hopes of designing a solid message that I could begin to rehearse with the intention of sharing it in the next few months (or whenever God allows).
What have I found most enlightening when considering my relationship with God is how good the Lord has been over the course of my entire life. I have had high's and low's, as all people do, but throughout both the times of want and times of plenty, I have seen God's hand at work, whether he was drawing me closer to myself in one area even while I was failing in another or using my past mistakes to better inform compassion in the man who I've become in the present.
When I look at my life, I see a great many failures. I see folly. I see selfishness. I see ignorance, pride, and sin. But I also see teachability. I see intentionality. I see brokenness over sin and longing for righteousness. Frankly, my life has been frighteningly cyclical with all of the above. Previously unknown patterns emerge when I engage my story on paper. I see key points of commonality in the mental and emotional state of myself at thirteen and thirty. Strangely, too, I see habits that are questionable at best and downright locked in arrested development at worst.
What is more telling, however, is that other persons have seen these issues well before I have. I spoke to my wife about the practice I undertook--the free-associative writing of my ongoing romance with the Lord--and after sharing my findings with her, I was humbled at her astute recognition of what I shared, even as the words were still on my mouth. More telling, however, is her keen insight into the human condition (or perhaps merely "the Christian condition") in that most lives follow patterns like my own, perhaps not with its cyclical, recurring timeline but with its general ebb-and-flow. Seasons of personal growth are also coupled with seasons of great trial. Years of work result in balance, but said balance is often undone soon thereafter--if not by personal choice than by outside forces. Periods of burn-out follow periods of immense productivity, and months in confusion are nearly always the children of major disappointment or calamity. This is life.
And, frankly, mine is not overly special. I have no great achievements nor abysmal failures. I have not had the highest heights of success nor the lowest points of defeat. My life has, in so many ways, been mundane--perhaps, even dull.
And I begin to wonders, perhaps if that is the point?
When I think of the message I would tell if I were given the chance to share my story with people who were eager to hear it, what would really be the thrust or driving arc that makes it worth telling? I can come to no other conclusion but Christ--to God and his consistent pursuit and mercy and love despite my cyclical follies, poor habits, and foolish patterns. God has seen and used me in spite of them--perhaps because of them--and while my active pursuits have left me wanting and wounded, my pursuit of him has been a point of constancy and satisfaction. He has given my life a thread. My story has become inevitably bound not to what I have done but what he has been doing and continues to do. And that is a very encouraging thought--far more encouraging than my own rise of shallow self-fulfillment (or lack thereof).
And it is in this realization that I believe I have my answer to the earlier question. What message would I tell, were I to share my story. Simple. My story is God's story, wherein Christ is the hero, the protagonist pursuing a selfish shrew who was once destined to self-destruction and now destined for something greater, despite periods of losing focus. Now that make for something worth telling (though I don't know how I will keep it to 25 minutes).
Thanks for reading,